Mondoweiss / December 17, 2021
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett says Jewish settler attacks are carried out by a “marginal” few, when in reality this violence is the product of the entire Israeli apartheid system.
Israel views Jewish settler violence “severely” and it is taking steps to tackle the phenomenon, the country’s Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev said Monday when he met in Jerusalem with U.S. Under-Secretary of State Victoria Nuland.
The declaration comes in the context of a 150% increase in Jewish settler-colonialist terrorization of Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories between 2019 and 2021. Defense Minister Benny Gantz already convened an emergency meeting last month with senior figures of the defense establishment to discuss this rise.
These attacks emanate primarily from illegal Jewish-Israeli colonialist outposts, and are often euphemistically dubbed “hilltop youth” attacks. But Haaretz’s military analyst Amos Harel quoted an official dispelling the notion of a few lawless bored brats:
“These are not attacks by bored children,” a senior security figure told Haaretz this week. “You have to call things by their name. In some of the cases it’s simply Jewish terrorism.”
And in Israel you can hardly say “Jewish terrorism.” That term is really considered radical.
Harel continues the citation:
“I don’t rule out the possibility that we will see another deadly attack, like the murder of the three members of the Dawabshe family in Duma [a village near Nablus] in 2015. This trend is also harming the country abroad. There is no meeting with foreign ambassadors in which the phenomenon of the attacks on Palestinians doesn’t come up.”
So, this is all very serious, it’s not child’s play, and real children’s lives are at risk.
But Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett jumped in to say it’s just a “marginal” issue. Bennett tweeted on Tuesday, following the news about Bar-Lev’s statement to Nuland.
There are marginal elements in every community, and they should be dealt with using all means, but we must not generalize about an entire community.
The Prime Minister’s ideological base is the religious-nationalist settler-colonialists of the West Bank. The image of a “liberal” who is more well-behaved than Netanyahu and “close friends” with Biden is extremely misleading, even though there are Labor members of the government, such as Bar-Lev. Bennett is a fundamentalist Jewish-supremacist who seeks to cancel out Palestine in the most polite way he can (or deems necessary), whether it involves “killing many Arabs” as he has boasted of doing in the past, or just relatively few…
Bennett’s marginalization of the issue was aimed at legitimizing and praising the Jewish settlers, his home-base. Thus he stated:
Settlers in Judea and Samaria [biblical names for West Bank] have suffered violence and terror, daily, for decades. They are the defensive bulwark for all of us, and we must strengthen and support them, in words and actions.
Bennett is implying that even speaking of this Jewish terrorism, which he would not God forbid call that, is weakening the settlers.
Minister of Interior Ayalet Shaked (known historically for her genocidal incitement), doubled down on Bennett’s praise for the settlers, and called them the “salt of the earth”. Shaked is number two in Bennett’s Yamina party (“Rightwards”), and she scolded Bar-Lev for even bringing up the issue, saying that he was “confused”, and that it’s the other way around – that it’s Palestinian violence one should be shocked by.
“I recommend you talk about this violence with Mrs. Nuland”, Shaked added (something which Bar-Lev in fact did, as mentioned, speak with Nuland about).
There are multiple attempts to do the “both sides” narrative here, in order to reduce the onus of Israel’s systemic settler-colonialist violence. While Bennett’s attempt is egregious and Shaked’s even more crass, Bar-Lev himself is also guilty of blaming. Thus, Bar-Lev pledged to Nuland that he will “continue to fight Palestinian terrorism as if there was no violence by extremist settlers, and the violence of extremist settlers as if there was no Palestinian terrorism.”
This is coded language that is very historically loaded and symbolic, and it speaks loudly to Bar-Lev’s Labor-Zionist voter base. Bar-Lev is doing a parody on a famous Ben-Gurion quote from 1939, which came in response to the British “White Paper” that entailed a limiting of Jewish immigration to Palestine in attempt to mitigate tensions in Palestine. Ben-Gurion was against the limitation, and the British thus became the enemy while they were also an ally in the war. Thus he said:
We will fight the war as if there were no White Paper, and we will fight the White Paper as if there were no war.
Like Ben-Gurion, Bar-Lev thrives on this duplicity, a typical Labor-Zionist hypocrisy which seeks to paint settler-colonialism as liberal. A person like that can congratulate extrajudicial execution of Palestinian suspects, as he did less than two weeks ago. Notice also the bias in Bar-Lev’s statement – there’s “Palestinian terrorism” vs. “extremist settlers”. “Terrorism” is all-encompassing when it comes to Palestinians, whereas when it comes to Jewish terrorism, it’s just “extremist settler violence”. Bar-Lev is actually doing the same thing that Bennett is doing with the “marginal” claim, it’s just a bit less obvious.
The saddest thing about all this is, that there are these games of “good cop – bad cop” and “both sides”, which serve to confuse the picture, and it allows Israel’s advocates to convey the impression that because Netanyahu is no longer ruling, Israel is now a liberal country.
Bennett’s comment about the “marginal” aspect is also misleading because these relatively few settler-colonialist thugs are backed by a big mechanism. Amira Hass of Haaretz, always on point, comments:
Bennett also makes us forget, in his comment to Bar-Lev, the great army of collaborators that these few assailants have among the settlers: They are the soldiers who defend the attackers or simply stand to the side when they assault Palestinians; the police, who don’t investigate or don’t bother to find suspects or who close investigations due to lack of interest to the public; the prosecution, which doesn’t file charges; and the settlement councils and government offices that fund the small number of supposedly violent individuals.
So no, this is not a marginal matter. It’s central, it’s huge, it’s encompassing of the entire Israeli establishment.
We need to talk about that Apartheid state of Jewish supremacy between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. There’s nothing both-sides about it.
Jonathan Ofir is an Israeli musician, conductor and blogger/writer based in Denmark